Book Byte: Rest - Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

Smart-thinking self-help book by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, published by Penguin with 247 pages. 

When Alex Pang took time off work he noticed two things:

  1. He got more done in less time

  2. A leisurely mindset was the key to his productivity

Rest is the product of that sabbatical. Pang challenges our lethargic approach to R&R by introducing the timeless concept of deliberate rest which many historical characters we admire swear by. Through persuasive neuroscientific research, Pang invites us to practice a work/rest routine hailing it as the secret to a productive and fulfilling life. Rest is skill, he argues. It is an active process that stimulates and sustains creativity. The book is introduced by wellness advocate, Arianna Huffington who thoroughly endorses Dr Alex Pan's book adding that:  

Rediscovering the importance of rest, though, requires rejecting our modern collective delusion that work is the central measure of our value, that overwork is to be admired and celebrated, and that burnout is simply the price we must pay for success.
— Arianna Huffington


Though I'm addicted to achieving, I have never been someone who can maintain the same level of productivity for an extended period of time. Because this level of functioning is the status quo, I have long-since believed something was 'wrong' with me. I have spent a great many years ploughing through my studies and career forcing this square peg into a round hole. When I discovered this book (and others like it), I began to feel more assertive about carving out my own work/rest routine that better suits my disposition. 


Alex introduces us to the history of the Supercreative type revealing their secret hacks to productive flourishing. Gleaned from a wealth of good quality research, he outlines what Arianna Huffington calls The Ten Commandments of Rest:

  1. Take rest seriously

  2. Focus

  3. Layer work and rest

  4. Get an early start

  5. Detach from work

  6. Detach from devices

  7. Take a week off every season

  8. Practice deep play

  9. Get plenty of exercise

  10. Get plenty of sleep

Alex gives us a simple to apply tips that can be easily applied into our working life. I was fascinated his exploration into the science behind why we occasionally 'zone out' as a temporary default mechanism for uploading new information. I would love to go back in time and hand this book to a few teachers! Dr Alex Pang explains to us how the default mode network in the brain is working hard when we are in rest mode and therefore provides us with the evidence of how rest is an active process. What is interesting is that there are different kinds of restorative activities each maintaining a specific function on the creative process.      

Routinization of work, the researchers concluded, does not have to diminish creativity; if it’s accompanied by freedom, routine can enhance creativity.
— Dr Alex Pang

The creative process, science tells us, has a very specific model with we should respect. The eureka moments historically happen in the brief moments we are distracted from the problems we are trying to solve. Science has since confirmed psychologist, Graham Wallas early theory of creative processing: 

  1. Preparation

  2. Incubation

  3. Illumination

  4. Verification

Note, stages 2 & 3 occur in a restful state. Unfortunately, the open plan office forces us into frantically running around making ourselves look forever busy, thereby hampering our creative innovation. The next time your line manager says, "why aren't you working" through this book at them (gently). 


The self-help genre is not always grounded in research. Alex Pang is a scholar but his calm and patient personality floats off the page. Alex Pang is a scholar, but his calm and patient personality floats off the page. I imagine him reading his children a bedtime story and wish I could be fly on the wall. I am immediately brought down from the heightened anxiety of the day by not only the subliminal messaging but also his pace and flow of his writing voice.   

I agree with his position of not blaming the internet for our problems, after all transcendent beings designed to grow. But is precisely how we use these devices that impacts our wellbeing and level of functioning. This tendency we have for blaming the tool rather than the user is simply letting us down. Take action and plan your time.  


In the 'Mourning Routine' chapter, Pang discusses how successful authors and CEOs often got up as early as 4 or 5 am to hone their productivity levels. Although he caveats the anecdotes with "For some,"  I'd couldn't stress the emphasis on this more. Those same CEOs are very unusual in that they often require less sleep than most, are hyperactive, or have an A-type personality. Because of their biology type they have, getting up at zombie hour kept their neurotic flurry of over-analytical thoughts quieter that when in a circadian peak. I have witnessed countless novice entrepreneurs drive themselves into burnout by attempting to closely follow in the paths of others that was counterintuitive to their chronotype. We should NEVER trade in our health and wellbeing for our achievement aspirations.

The ultimate point of Alex Pang's book provides us with the full gambit of a rest routine that should provide optimal performance levels. But what works for some may not work for others; 'an early start' for most of us may well fall within the hours of 6 - 8am. Using the tips Pang offers, experiment with a schedule that works well for you - and stick to it! If you read past the 'Mourning Routine' chapter, you will see how sleep is an absolute essential for your productivity levels. Alex Pang is offering us a way to sustainably achieve our aspirations with balance and poise. 

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Author "Rest" in conversation with Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global
If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.
— Dr Alex Pang


This (and other expert advice) is a call to arm to reconsider our workday. With technological advancement, we are able to work remotely and work from home. With that luxury we can be far more productive in bitesize segments than in the 14+ hour day we are currently pulling. The HR teams I work with are puzzled by this strange phenomenon of employees not taking advantage of flexi-hours, for example. It seems we are loaded with guilt and FOMO which halts us from living a life in harmony with our biotime. Where would we be if we shifted our workplace lifestyle and allowed the blessings of technology to complement rather than demand more from us? If used technology to support us getting more done in less time then its likely we'll be happier and live longer - isn't that what we all want?    

When reading this book think about these three questions and let me know your thoughts in comment section below: 

  1. If you were to follow your own work/rest rhythm, what would it look like?

  2. Experiment with a few routines and schedules and record your productivity levels till you find one that works well for you

* If you want to ask Alex Pang questions, will be speaking at this year's London Sleep Show, SOMNEX, at the Old Truman Brewery. Book your tickets here to listen to his soothing voice, get your book signed and learn more about the interface between technology and sleep.*   

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5 Star Rating

A must for anyone experiencing burnout but are keen to tick off your bucket list!

Get the book here and let me know what you think in the comments below.

I have not doubt you relate to some of the themes raised in this book. Once that spark is lit, you'll want to discover more. Carpe diem and book a wellbeing workshop. 


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